UK Rapper, J Chambers is Pushing for More than Music with Poetry on the Black Experience
Evan Dale // March 27, 2021
The artful conscious of spoken word has always been foundational to hip-hop. The two are intertwined, only divided if can be, by production, by cadence, by flow, but all of those things – from a cappella strings of rhymes in rap to more hard-nosed, beatbox backdropped moments in the delivery of a poem – make a palpable differentiation completely subjective. To know the thought-provoking force of one is to know the macro-cultural scale of another, and vice versa. It’s why so many rappers come from poetic backgrounds, finding a more widespread iteration of their craft in the music of poetry; while many rappers dabble in poetry pulled away from the beat and the pop limelight, finding a more personal inclination to thought through the purity of raw rhyme and delivery.
Also often inseparable from one poetic realm to the next, is the space one grants an artist to explore the realities they face. Subject matter is king, and many poets – many rappers – utilize their platforms to speak on important truths. Such are the roots of rapping: poetry in motion – rhythm and poetry – bleeding from the mouths of the underrepresented to speak their peace and push for change. Such is the power of poetry: relating to others through the cascading beauty and forceful grip of language.
Enter: J Chambers. The Manchester wordsmith is dynamic. Whether through music or the barebones emotionality of a spoken word performance, his is a stream of consciousness more vocabulary driven and thought provoking than just about anyone else on the modern rap-poetic spectrum. As alongside others on that spectrum, 2020 was especially challenging, and in response, an especially artful year.
Like so many in this world – particularly Black populations whose institutionalized struggles and constant push to overcome became the focus of a global movement – the Summer of 2020 in particular was an amalgamation of pain and power. Following a continuing stream of police brutality and the subsequent murder of Black people by police in the United States, the world was thrust into a global reckoning and continued fight for racial equality and justice on every scale. It became a months-long fight in the media limelight – it is a continued fight in the real word – against institutionalized racism, and in suit, became a moment for Black communities to turn their pain into power. Culture after all – the way we all know it from music, to style, to art through its most macro lens – is largely of Black creation.
J chambers took the fight to the microphone. His single, Kill The Noise – inspired by and a part of the Black Lives Matter movement – caught widespread attention beyond hip-hop and poetry, and transcended into the spaces of cultural tutelage and mindful overcoming. A cascading, poetic delivery delineating his experiences being a Black man in Britain resonated with Black communities both local and elsewhere. It also went beyond the frustrations of reality and pushed those listening to make their own difference and fight the larger fight.
Same system, same pain, different chains
Though the fight still remains,
Use your voice, be the change,
Kill the Noise.
It became an anthem – one of many alongside tracks like Anderson .Paak’s Lockdown and Kemba’s 6 Million Ways – to march to, to fight to, and to ultimately inspire thought and fan the flames beneath a continued bout towards long-term systemic change.
“Songs of reason and hope at a time when it’s needed most, Chambers manages to articulate all of his thoughts and feelings so very well throughout and this song could just educate a few people” Earmilk on ‘Kill the Noise’
The thought-provoking single also led to new opportunities for J Chambers himself. And through new opportunities arose a need to pursue something other than and in addition to his insightful, necessary rap. When commissioned by the BBC to write and perform a poem to open Blue Peter’s Black History Month Celebration, he chose ‘to write something [he] thought would resonate with young children.’ An intimate, immersive 90 seconds of steadfast emotionally delivered poetry pushing for the strength to cause change, the reason to instill pride, and bleeding of the beauty in Black culture, J Chambers’ does much more than resonate with younger generations. His is a timeless, transcendent kind of speech resonating with all ages, all races on the subject matter of Blackness, detailing what it means to be Black in Britain, and what it means to be Black, period.
From the platform that the BBC brought his voice, and because of the reach through which the pedestal of his powerful words ring, J Chambers continues still to make waves in music, in poetry, and beyond into a public, didactic realm that both hip-hop and spoken word can grasp, but that little work from few artists ultimately scopes. He wrote a poem for the Withington Walls Program, which aids Manchester community reinvigoration through the power of street art. He then released his Escape The Kingdom EP – his first since 2017 – which he describes as an exploration and exhibition of being Black and British within contemporary English culture. It’s a masterful half-hour of wide-ranging hip-hop, glistening throughout with thoughtful and thought-provoking lyricism, exhibiting hip-hop’s eternal tether to poetry, and standing as a paramount reflection on hip-hop’s socio-poetic roots where legends from the Golden Era and the 90’s utilized their voice to really, really say something.
And that’s where J Chambers stands today: on the cusp of timelessness through the lens of hip-hop and poetry, speaking his peace, pushing for change, and using the platform of his arts to inspire others to do the same.